Concerning Smugglers: Part Four
Also by whitefriar
"I don't feel so good."
The Lost Sail was pitching and rolling. The waves, which had looked so harmless only ten days ago, were now peaking higher than the mast of the ship. The sails rattled with the force of the rushing gales, and the rain splattered hard against the portholes. Kip was in his room, looking pale and feeling very sorry for himself. The lantern above him swung perilously to and fro, casting a deep shadow over the room. Kip groaned as the ship rolled forward again in a wave and turned over trying to catch some sleep whilst battling against the sickening feeling inside. He closed his eyes and drifted into an uneasy dream, awaking at every dreadful lurch of the ship.
Morning eventually came, and with it Crag banging loudly on Kips door. Kip blearily opened his eyes, still unrecovered from the turbulent night of the ship. He held his stomach groaning.
"I thought this ship was supposed to be the best in all of Neopia," he complained carefully.
"Aye, but even the ol' tub ain't holdin' up to much in this fierce storm," the voice of Crag drifted through the door, over the deafening sound of the dying remnants of the tempest outside. "Ye ought to get out on deck, be doin' you no good to sit 'round here feelin' sorry for yeself."
Kip groaned again in agreement, sitting himself up. A wave of nausea swept over him, but he battled it down and staggered to the door leading from the galley. He undid the latch and the door swung wide open, banging against the frame. He lurched outside. The wind was strong still, and the waves terrifying, but the storm had abated somewhat. The fresh air somewhat revived his spirits, although the effects were still threatening to reveal themselves shortly. Through the thick mist of cloud ahead, the sunlight was just piercing its way through. It lit up the sky like a flash of lightning, albeit continuous, almost painfully bright compared to the darkness of the galley below.
Kip meandered slowly over to the side of the ship and leaned over the side. The water below was frothing and wailing. He concentrated hard, battling the internal fight inside. Looking up and along the deck he saw a bulky figure standing upright further along the deck. With his feet rooted firmly apart, he looked for all the world perfectly comfortable on the bouncing ship. Kip crept his way along the decking, holding resolutely onto the side. The silhouette swam into clearer view, and the musty smell heralded the appearance of the First Mate, Bert.
"Argh, goo' mornin', young Kip," growled the Bruce, staring fiercely throw a spy-glass trained on the sea ahead. "I' seems that Lady Luck be on our side today."
"Oh, that's what passes as luck, is it?" Kip paled.
The Bruce chuckled, holding his telescope steady, frowning as his glanced down at a piece of chart in his hand and back to the scope.
"I believe tha' be i'," muttered Bert. "I' be hard to tell from this distance."
"What are you looking for, Bert?" queried Kip.
The Bruce glanced surreptitiously around before bending low and speaking in Kips ear.
"Three-Leaf Isle of course. Our map says that I' supposed to be aroun' here somewhere, bu' the ink has ran, an' I can' tell exactly where we be. I don' suppose you could run an' fetch Bellamy? P'raps he could decipher this a bi' more than meself."
"I think I could," replied Kip checking himself tenderly, "but I might take some time."
"No rush," winked Bert. "We be at anchor and won' be movin' for some time, methinks."
Kip nodded and made his way towards the navigator's cabin, holding onto the ships side for support. The navigator had a prime cabin within the ship, above the captains hold at the stern. There, the ship had the most support for the compass and various maps, unlike the kitchen situated in the bow. Clearly the designers did not think there was a need for a steady hand when cooking; the food would be bad enough anyway. Kip pushed the handle downwards. The door opened with a creak. Stepping inside, he shut the door behind him. The dim light from the candles lit the room fitfully. Heavy curtains shielded the windows from the light outside.
"Excuse me," called out Kip. "Mr. Bellamy, sir?"
The brightness of the room appeared to grow as his eyes adjusted to the dark. He saw a slender figure peering over a map. It was wearing a feathered hat; it must be Bellamy.
"Ah, good morrow, Kip," said the voice serenely. "Pray, what brings you to my little cubbyhole this fine morning?"
"First Mate wants to see you, sir. He requires more exact navigation skills than his own can decipher."
"And I suppose that bumbling buffoon spake these very words. Very well, I shall attend to Bert's problems; it's not exactly something he can solve with a little discussion with Sally now, is it?" Bellamy the Lenny grumbled as he found his way around the table. Kip stepped nimbly out the way as he approached the door. The Lenny rested his hand on the door handle, pausing for a moment.
"Stay here," he instructed, "I have something that pertains to our mutual interest in our future endeavours that you may find... beneficial. Oh, and don't. Touch. Anything."
With that, he opened the door, cursed at the bright light that flooded the room, and stepped out onto the deck. Kip was left alone, again, in a stifling room. After a few moments he found himself walking around the cabin, observing it. One wall was dotted with holes, neatly laid out into rows and columns. Each hole was large enough to fit one, tightly wrapped scroll. There were at least a hundred different scrolls of every conceivable shape, size, colour and quality of parchments. Each scroll, or map as they undoubtedly were, seemed to be delicately placed in the holder, wax seal on the top, all perfectly aligned. The other wall was wooden with bare boards exposed to the room. There was a handle within the wood, clearly this was another door that would lead to the navigators sleeping quarters.
In the centre of the room there was a large table, embedded within was an intricately designed compass. It appeared to be supported on three sides with a rail-like structure, bearings holding the compass straight in heavy seas it appeared. It seemed strange that this was the only method by which the pirates could navigate. Perhaps there were other, less accurate but more traditional, methods that could be used to guide a vessel through murky, unknown waters.
Also upon the table was a large sheet of parchment, pinned neatly down in every corner by a wooden pin. In the top segment there was a map, clearly drawn out with delicate detail. The rest of the sheet was blank. Kip wondered why this was; perhaps the map was incomplete, or even more impressively, perhaps the pirates, well, Bellamy to be exact, was charting this water for future reference. After all, you could never know when you were to return to a previously looted place to see what other treasures were in store.
Finally, also upon the slatted table, there were two mirrors, identical in appearance, embossed in a bronze-like metal, they emanated normality. Yet it was this exact trait that Kip found so irresistible. They seemed so out of place on a pirate ship like this, where wealth, treasure and a good mug of rum were the order of the day. He gazed into the mirror, seeing his reflection looking back at him from the depths. The door handle moved, and Kip stood upright as it opened, illuminating the room once again.
"That wretched first mate wouldn't know an island from a ship; 'Is this clover-shaped island Three-Leaf Isle?' Fool."
The Lenny looked up at the cabin boy as he stepped through, seeing him standing over the table.
"Ah, I see you have found The Mirrors," the Lenny said. "These are precisely the items that I wished to show you. They'll be useful for you on our journey."
He walked over to the table, leaned over and picked up a mirror.
"Very ordinary looking, aren't they," he mused. "Reflects all that it is shown. Yet it only takes a whisper, a single word, and they show all that is reflected. Take the other in your hand Kip, and I shall show you."
Kip gingerly reached out his hand, and picked one up.
"Fenestra," whispered the navigator, placing one hand over his own mirror. Nothing appeared to happen, no green magical swirls of light, no shimmering colours in the air. Kip looked into the mirror again, expecting to see his face once more. He yelped in surprise when instead he saw the Lenny's face glinting into his. The Navigator laughed aloud.
"Well, that was to be expected, I suppose," he replied, whispering once more, "Reddo."
"Is this a two-way mirror?" Kip asked suspiciously, twirling the object in his hand.
"Indeed it is. I'm sure it will prove useful on your journey, as no other member of the crew can come with you. This will allow us to observe you, perhaps even provide a helping hand. Take the one you're holding with you; we'll keep this one. You should head out to deck. I have the feeling that your submersion will begin shortly."
With this farewell, Kip made his way out of the Navigators quarters, skirting past Bellamy the Lenny and onto the sloping deck. The ship had moved toward the previously distant islands under the instruction of the First Mate. Pirates were once more swarming over the decks, pulling down the sails, as the The Lost Sail slowly glided to a halt. Ahead were towering rocks, waves crashing white foam against them, sounding like a rough sea in a storm, rather than the calm weather that was now inclement.
Kip leant out over the side of the ship, standing next to the First Mate once more. The air tasted salty upon his lips. His heart leapt in his chest as he gazed at the rocks, recognising them at last from the map he had so inconspicuously been reading in the Captain's cabin. Bert handed his spyglass to the young Flotsam.
"'Ave a good look at these then, young lad," he said. "Bellamy's confirme' i'. That be the isle we look for. Those be the very rocks where The King's Sceptre should be a' rest. We daren' ge' any closer tha' this."
Kip gazed through the glass, magnifying the rocks to such fine precision that he could see the individual cracks and crevices in each of them. The waves still looked terrifying, but he was a Flotsam, a creature of the sea; he ought not to be frightened, he assured himself.
"We be sendin' you overboard again soon," Bert mentioned casually, holding a grubby hand out for instrument. "I jus' need to be getting the cap'n. Also this time, try no' to fall in with such ease."
The First Mate left, striding purposefully with an ease that only a master seaman can manage, and headed towards Captain Ratner's cabin. Kip gulped with unease, his hand drifting to his jacket pocket, making sure the knife was still there. He felt a shadow drift over him, and turned to see Vinny the Techo stood behind him. The pirate was looking contempt at the young cabin boy.
"I don't trust you, boy," said the Techo. "And I don't like you one little bit. You come here and suddenly you're the Captain's best friend. I've been on this ship for six years now, and not once has the Captain ever addressed me by anything but..."
"A slimy, Ombat of an excuse for a sailor," finished the voice of Bellemy the navigator, as he, the Captain and Bert the Bruce strode back across the deck.
"Beat it, Vinny," said Captain Ratner. "Don't you have some work to be getting on with? Young Kip here is our chances for riches beyond compare."
"Your riches," muttered Vinny, in a voice so low that even Kip strained to hear it over the breaking waves. "Well, not if I can do anything about it."
The Techo slunk off, hand on his curved cutlass, with a smile that Kip did not like the look of. The other three pirates reached Kip at last. Bellamy handed him one mirror, and Captain Ratner placed a strong arm around the Flotsam.
"Well," barked the Gelert, "looks like we're nearly ready to go, no use in tarrying any longer. Bellamy and I are not great fans of sharp rocks. You'll jump in this nice, balmy water and have a little look down and around for The King's Sceptre. If you manage to find it, let us know using that mirror of yours. It's a gift from me to you."
The Captain winked. Kip held the mirror in his hand, turning it over again, marvelling in its normality. Bellamy cleared his throat.
"Young Kip," he said primly, "I wish you the best of luck of your journey. I am not sure of what you may find down there, but I am sure that your tenacity and astuteness will prevail."
"Nicely put, Bellamy," said the Captain, giving the Lenny such a slap on the back that his hat tipped forward, nearly falling overboard. "And with that I think it's time you were off, Kip. If you're ready to go, that is."
"Ready to go?" stammered the Kip, before resolving himself. "I mean. Aye aye, sir. Ready and eager to go."
"Good lad," replied the Captain, before turning to the First Mate. "Let down the rope. We'll get started."
Bert the Bruce nodded, hauling a large rope over the side of The Lost Sail. There was a deafening noise as the rope uncoiled, hitting the side of the vessel of each unfurling twist. It was old, but sturdy, thrice-wrapped twine around a fishing line. The rope was knotted every cubit to provide leverage for any Neopet wishing to climb, or in this case descend, with ease. Kip removed his garments, tying his jacket in a knot around his trousers. The shaggy rope used to hold them up however he retied up, securing the mirror and his knife on his fin.
"Down you go," said Bert, indicating to the rope.
"Yeah. That is, aye aye, first mate," said Kip resolutely. "Wish me luck."
"Don't worry, young Flotsam," said Bellamy. "The worst of the storm is over, no need to worry about that."
"It's not the weather that makes me nervous," Kip replied, moving down the rope hand-over-hand. "It's what's under the sea."
At this, the Flotsam reached the bottom of the makeshift ladder. The sea was cool, but it felt nice to fill his pores with water once more. This was his natural home, after all. He squinted through the bright sunlight back to the deck of the ship. Three figures were silhouetted against the glittering sky.
"Remember," came the barking voice of Captain Ratner. "Keep in touch."
With these parting words, Kip dived below the surface of the water, letting the salty murk engulf him as he headed down, towards the sea bed.
To be continued...